The road to hell—and the San Francisco Planning Department—is paved with good intentions. Think you actually have the right to renovate the house you worked your entire life to buy? Ha, we say. Ha! The City Planning Department office knows better than you ever will, and they have been entrusted with the task of defending the historic fabric of the city— Just don't ask them to define "historic." Although the far-from-comprehensive Review Procedures for Historic Resources (a.k.a. the "planner's bible") determines the significance of many San Francisco properties, it details a very vague set of guidelines defining acceptable renovations. Make friends with the plan check engineer, people, as she or he will likely make the final call on your renovation plans. As one might imagine, San Franciscan home owners have been, shall we say, less than thrilled with this wavy gravy process; The Planning department is responding by updating their historic resources to create a set of specific building guidelines that will dictate what is and isn't permitted in San Francisco. Naturally, there is no set deadline for this overhaul, so there's no reason to hold your breath— or your permit applications.
· S.F.'s difficult path to home renovation [SF Gate]